This series explores simple but effective self-care strategies for the time-strapped.
For when we currently find ourselves over worked, over scheduled, and over extended.
We'll focus on the many little things we CAN do as exhausted parents, weekend warriors, and stressed caregivers - even though we're out of time, out of patience, and out of luck when it comes to fitting in self-care.
THE EVENING: when many time-strapped folks are trying to squeeze in one last task, one last email. Already thinking about the to-do list for tomorrow. Playing frantic catch-up while also trying desperately to spool-down.
Whether you're coming home from a long day of work, or have been trying to keep up with kids all day, or just out and about getting things done in the world ... it's important to create space, even if it's only a few minutes, for the transition. From day to evening. From rush to calm. From caring for others to caring for yourself.
□ SOOTHE THE BODY At some point in the evening - whenever makes the most sense for you apply heat. Heat dilates the blood vessels which increases blood flow to those hardworking muscles that carried you through the day.
Heat doesn't take long to do its job. It could be applied on the shoulders with a microwaveable heat pack as you're getting undressed, or making dinner. Or with an electric version when you're eating or tuning into your favorite show.
Pair using heat with something you know you're likely going to do anyway, and you'll be more apt to use it. Make it easy, have it plugged in already. And it won't be just one more thing to do or think about.
□ MOVE THE BODY Especially if you never stop moving during the day, all you may want to do in the evening is stop moving all together.
But even with an active day, you're probably doing the same movements over and over. Leaving some muscles groups overworked, and others are underworked.
Think about the specific movements you do all day long. Then think about what an opposite movement may be. If you're at a desk hunched forward most of the day, one opposite movement would be standing up and leaning backward. If you're craning down to pick up kiddos, an opposite would be to lay down and raise arms above your head. So before you crash into the sofa or bed, take a few minutes to move what hasn't been moved most of the day.
Kid(s) around making a zen yoga routine a laughable endeavor? Involve them in your evening movements. If calm isn't their vibe, do something more active like dance - silly/easy or skilled/challenging based on their interest and age.
□ ENGAGE THE MIND
For the time-strapped, your brain may be running on fumes by the time evening rolls around. Engaging your mind further may sound like the exact opposite of what you want. Tuning out can sound way more appealing.
But tuning out isn't a great long-term strategy for self-care. Some evenings, it's just what we gotta do to get through when we're beyond tapped out. But every evening? It can lead to masking or entrenching bad habits and poor mental health. If we're tuning out our evenings, we're missing a lot of life.
Engaging your mind shouldn't feel like more work. If it does, change the activity. Simple things like listening to music can uplift our mood and keep our minds engaged after a long day. And is an improvement over mindless social media scrolling. Maybe you want something more challenging, but still different than what you do all day long? Puzzles, riddles, games. Or maybe if you're home all day it'd be good to just get out for a quick walk. Stroll around your block, taking mental note of the changes and differences each day brings.
□ SOOTHE THE BODY If you take a shower in the evening, take a few extra minutes as another opportunity to get in some extra heat to calm aches and pains.
Does your shower head have a jet setting? Turn it to blast mode and get the additional benefits of more pressure. If not, replacing the shower head with one that does is definitely a great home improvement and self-care upgrade.
□ MOVE THE BODY
Going to bed seems like no time to move the body. We go there to be still, right? Right. But often for busy folks, once they hit the mattress, sleep doesn't just happen.
Their minds start going off like a ticker-tape. Or persistent aches and pains decide it's a good time to flare up.
Something that can help is to go from head to toe, and force your attention on simple, easy movements that distract the mind and relax the body.
Turn head from side to side on the pillow.
Raise eyebrows up and down, up and down.
Close eyes tightly, then slowly easy open.
Clench and then unclench your jaw.
Shrug and rotate shoulders.
Raise arms, slowly ease down.
Curl fists, and then each finger.
Breath deep, opening up the chest.
Swap hips from side to side.
Contract big leg muscles.
Twirl ankles and point feet.
□ ENGAGE THE MIND
Bed time can be a great time to engage your senses, and thus the mind that it's time for sleep. You've put in the effort and time all day long, now you deserve good quality rest.
Low light, white noise, pleasant smells, soft sheets - whatever you really enjoy - just make it a routine and stick with it.
Our minds are big habit machines - feed it good habits, and it will reward you with good outcomes.
Time-Strapped Article Series
Self-Care for the Time-Strapped: Evening Routine - - -
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